Discovery Through Story Research

They say to write what you know, but if I wrote what I knew, I would never have learned about two awesome little creatures called the tardigrade and the Pompeii worm (Wikipedia links).

(Photo credit: Wired.com)

Tardigrade (Photo credit: Wired.com)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pompeii Worm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These two little guys are extremophiles, which means they have unusually high tolerances for temperature. In the case of the tardigrade, it can survive just about anything you throw at it, including a decade of dehydration, freezing to one degree above absolute zero, and the vacuum of space. Oh, and they can also survive direct, unfiltered radiation from the sun, a radiation that would cook a human alive. So, they’re kind of tough, you know?

I’m doing research for a new project, and one of the characters is an evolutionary microbiologist (because why not, right?). It’s my job as a writer to create a passable facsimile of a person in said profession, or at least one that doesn’t ring abnormally false, even after a bit of scrutiny.

Enter the internet, that vast trove of everything that could either accelerate one’s destruction or open up a world of possibilities that before could only be uncovered with laborious trips to the local library or university. And to get to those places, we actually had to go…outside (dun dun DUNNNNN!).

Well, no longer. Now I can wear pajamas and read all about extremophiles like the uber-resilient tardigrade without suffering the disapproving looks of a librarian.

I also think the writing process is made more enjoyable when it’s a process of discovery, because a lot of that will transfer over to the reading process. I figure if I’m excited about the content, then readers will be as well.

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